9 posts tagged "Audrey Hepburn"
With his Hugo Boss debut and thriving eponymous line, Jason Wu is having a banner year. So it comes as little surprise that the 31-year-old Taiwanese-Canadian designer is picking up the top honor at Parsons’ 2014 Fashion Benefit, which is set for tomorrow evening. Ahead of the festivities, Wu, who’s both a Parsons alum and—fun fact—a former toy designer, took time away from wrapping his forthcoming Resort collection to speak with Style.com about his secrets to success, New York fashion’s changing landscape, and his obsession with RuPaul.
Congratulations on the Parsons honor. Considering you studied at the school, do you feel you’ve come full circle?
I’ve kind of come full circle because I moved here in 2001 for my first year at Parsons. So it’s nice to go back and be a part of this new generation of the school, which has taught me a lot and done so much for me. It’s a very nice honor and I’m very proud. But I don’t think I’ve made it—at all. I think I’ve hit a nice moment in my career and it feels great to have your peers and people in your industry acknowledge your work. But that’s not to say that there’s not much more work to do.
Between your debut at Hugo Boss, the success of your own line, and now this award, it seems that you’ve really hit your stride this year.
I don’t know. I always think there’s more to do, so I never think I’ve hit my stride. I always want more and want to do more, but certainly I think it’s been a great year so far, having done two shows in New York for the first time, and then getting this award. I guess that comes with age and experience and just doing it for a while. And I guess I’m getting a little better at it.
Do people look at you differently now that you’ve become the big man at Boss?
I don’t know if I’ve knocked it out of the park yet, but I think we had a really successful first show and I guess people look at me a little more like a grown-up, a big person.
Do you feel like a grown-up?
Yeah, I feel a little older. I guess that means grown-up. Definitely achier.
Your Boss show was quite the star-studded event, and Jennifer Lawrence just wore a gown from your Fall collection to the world premiere of X-Men: Days of Future Past. What role does celebrity dressing play in a designer’s success?
Having people you admire wear your clothes in a very public way is inspiring, and it’s also a great way to get your work out there. It’s a great form of advertising. But for me it’s always about quality, not quantity, and it’s about dressing the few girls that I love. I’ve always been very loyal to Diane Kruger, Reese Witherspoon, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Kerry Washington—those are girls I dress over and over and over again. And you really develop a rapport and a friendship and a relationship. It goes back to the days when Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, and Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent, had those relationships that went [beyond commerciality]. Those were true relationships. It’s great to continue that tradition.
Can a young designer make it these days without a celebrity bump?
Everyone does it differently. There are some people who make clothes that are more appropriate for a red carpet and there are some people who don’t. I’m not sure if it’s a do-or-die situation, but you do have to seek exposure in your own way, in a way that’s right for your brand.
How did you come to dress Jennifer Lawrence for her X-Men premiere? Was that a big moment for you?
Yeah. Actually, we just found out [the day before]. I had no idea. I think there’s something so incredibly human about her. That’s why people love her so much—she’s so relatable. She shows a little imperfection—which we all have—and still looks stunning.
You mentioned that people like seeing imperfection in public figures. With that in mind, people seem to like you a lot. What’s your imperfection?
My imperfection is that I’m not as perfect as people seem to think I am. There’s a sense of controlled, sophisticated ideas in my clothes that are quite neat, and I think people sometimes think I’m that, but I’m not.
Are you messy?
I’m actually not messy. I’m terrible at waking up early. I’m terrible at a lot of things. I’m terrible at technology—anything computer-oriented. And I’m terrible at making anything on time, which I’m really working on. Actually, at Parsons, I was always really late, and you can’t be late at Parsons. You really get into trouble.
You, along with Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung, Joseph Altuzarra, etc., are part of New York’s new guard. How do you think the creative climate here is changing?
Right now, New York fashion week is at its best. We have the most young talent [succeeding] at the same time for the first time in a long, long while, and this is the first time that we’ve really been acknowledged on an international level in a long time. That has to do with the fact that our generation’s outlook is global, rather than local. If you look at Style.com, you can read that anywhere in the world. That certainly helps. Having that kind of recognition all over the world is something that is quite rare. We’re experiencing something of a moment, a movement.
Why is that, do you think?
It is, in so many ways, New York’s time. All [of the young designers] in New York come from different international backgrounds. I think that’s a very nice representation of what New York fashion is about—it’s about diversity; it’s about fresh ideas; it’s about making its own statement, because we don’t have the hundreds of years of history. We’re really still, as a whole, quite new at it.
Do you remember how you felt when you were designing your Parsons graduate collection?
It’s so funny because I went to Parsons and my major was menswear, yet I make the most fit-and-flare dresses you could possibly imagine. I guess after going to the very masculine side, I felt like I was much more comfortable in the very feminine side, and eventually the combination of the two became my work as we know it today.
Why were you initially drawn to menswear?
I always liked the idea of tailoring. I always felt making a jacket was the most difficult thing, and it is still the most difficult. Sometimes the cleanest things with the least amount of details are the most intricate.
What do fashion students need to know that isn’t necessarily taught in school?
It’s that the fashion industry isn’t by-the-books. It’s not about following one specific route, it’s about paving your own way and making it your own. That’s what makes fashion interesting—individual visions—and not one person breaks through in the same way. We all get into it slightly differently—I worked in toys first.
Speaking of toys, I read that back in the day, you did a RuPaul doll?
I worked with RuPaul once! It was a long time ago. We made a RuPaul doll and it was wildly successful and that’s how I met him. Of course, RuPaul’s Drag Race is my favorite show ever. It’s like the best show on television. RuPaul is kind of the ultimate supermodel, and I have an obsession with supermodels.
Does your former life as a toy designer ever inform your fashion designs?
Attention to detail is what links my work as a toy designer and a fashion designer. Most people say I went from dressing toy dolls to real dolls. That’s kind of the press-y version of it. But in actuality, I did everything from designing the sculptural form of the dolls to the industrialization of the molds to the manufacturing. I always knew how to create a really good product, and I think that experience primed me for this industry.
How important has business savvy been to your success?
The balance between creativity and business-savvy is something that every young designer needs to be aware of, because it’s the reality of our industry. Having that balance is something that my generation of New York designers really thinks about.
What is your advice to fashion students who want to be the next Jason Wu?
I don’t know if they do want to be the next Jason Wu! But my advice is seize every opportunity and work hard. It sounds so obvious to say that, but the glamour of the industry can get distracting sometimes, and at the end of the day it’s about the work. I work weekends all the time—there’s no such thing as overtime for me because my own time is overtime. And I don’t have any vacations, so cancel those family plans.
People have been documenting the history of clothing for a long time, but the analytical study of fashion as a key sociological phenomenon has only existed for three decades. That it exists at all is mostly thanks to Gilles Lipovetsky, a French philosopher and sociologist whose book The Empire of Fashion: Dressing Modern Democracy (1987) is still the definitive staple if you really want to know what’s at stake when you buy a dress.
Lipovetsky, a father of two and author of thirteen books (translated into twenty languages), has stayed away from the cities where fashion is shown, living and teaching at the foot of the French Alps, in the city of Grenoble. Given the opportunity to interview one of the world’s most prominent academic specialists in fashion, we didn’t want to ask him anything as trivial as who his favorite designer is (OK, it’s André Courrèges). We certainly didn’t wish to pry into the elements of his personal style (black suit, black shirt, black shoes, if you must know). We even thought it might be a bit banal to inquire as to what has been the most decisive event in the way fashion has come to dominate our lives (that would be the development of mass luxury-inspired brands such as H&M and Zara). Instead, we figured we’d dive right into a discussion of fashion hermeneutics (dictionary apps at the ready).
In the introduction to The Empire of Fashion, you noted the oversaturation of fashion-related information in the media. This phenomenon has vastly increased since the book was first published, and yet there has been very little theoretical discourse on the subject of fashion. Why is that?
I think it’s because fashion is a phenomenon that has traditionally been disqualified by intellectuals as a frivolous and futile activity. There were important sociological fashion theories by thinkers such as Georg Simmel, Gabriel Tarde, and Thorstein Veblen in the late 19th and beginning of the 20th century. But it’s very little compared to other social institutions such as the arts that benefit from a superior highbrow image.
So why did you become a specialist in fashion?
I felt that in our society fashion had taken up a meaning much larger than the clothing element alone. Since the late fifties, fashion has entered every domain of consumption. It became a crucial concept to understand our society. Therefore, in order to understand the dynamic of contemporary consumption systems, one has to look through fashion’s main characteristics: accelerated obsolescence, ephemerality, image, seduction, etc.
To understand our society, one has to understand fashion?
All the logics that were embodied in the clothing business are now everywhere, and whether someone is selling you a car or a kitchen, they’re doing so by following the logic of fashion. This new hybridity gives an extraordinary depth to the concept of fashion, because for thousands of years there was no fashion, and then at the end of the Middle Ages fashion started with clothing. Nowadays there is more fashion content in a smartphone launch than in a new clothing collection. This idea has become central in order to understand our society.
Thanks to the Internet and the proliferation of technologies allowing us to communicate through images, fashion’s spectacle has become a language that today’s youth speaks fluently. Tell us about fashion as it relates to individualization.
Again, when I speak about a theory of fashion in regards to individualization, I’m not talking only about clothing. I’m talking about the system of fashion applied to the society in its entirety and how it has overthrown the old social organizations such as family, religion, politics, morality, etc. All these large institutions that collectively framed and regulated individuals have lost their power mostly because of an individualization wave that occurs in the fifties and was parallel to the rise of the Empire of Fashion.
What are its values?
The “fashion economy” of consumption has spread and legitimated the ideas of hedonism, pleasure, well-being, the quest for self-happiness, etc.
Could you go back to the role of clothing in the individualization process?
It has been said that fashion clothing also creates conformism, but I do not agree. There is a real difference between individualism and originality. Individualism is the fact that you wear what you wear because you are considering that it “suits you.” It’s not the group that is forcing you to wear this or that like it used to be in the ancien régime, where wearing a particular outfit was absolutely mandatory. Today there is no mandatory style, there are many available, and even if everybody dresses the same way, they still have the choice. In parallel we have to observe that there is also a worldwide homogenization: Everybody is wearing sneakers, jeans, and T-shirts. Every country has the same brands, the same products, the same movies, and the same celebrities are consumed. The freedom is therefore not absolute, but there is still that dimension of choice that is capital because this is where the principle of individualization is located. It is not in the originality of your appearance, but it is the fact that you’ve emotionally appropriated what you are consuming.
How would you explain the irresistibly growing presence of the celebrity image on every magazine cover and every fashion advertisement?
Fashion marketing is now based on celebrity because we love celebrities. It started in the forties with the American brand House of Lux that used Hollywood stars, and then Givenchy in the fifties with Audrey Hepburn. But it was still very rare then. Today every brand has its celebrity. It’s an emotion-based communication strategy for the magazine or the clothing brand. Through the celebrity, the product is humanized, it acquires a face. Above all, a star is a personality. And we consume personality because we are a society of the anonymous. The celebrity is the exact opposite of the anonymity and the impersonal that is omnipresent in our “mass” society. This type of marketing re-creates some personality component in a mass production industry.
When we speak about fashion, we speak about women’s fashion. With Courrèges and Yves Saint Laurent in the sixties, women have appropriated men’s costume, but we never see men walking around in skirt and heels. Could you tell us about fashion and gender roles?
In the 19th century, creative fashion was the property of women, and men would only wear dark suits, some kind of “non-fashion,” a degree zero of fashion as Roland Barthes would have said. Men’s clothing was in search of neither fantasy nor originality. Only women’s fashion was gleaming. I called this period “the hundred year fashion” and it lasted till the sixties. Now men wear colors and various style of masculine elegance. That being said, things have changed, but there is still an enormous difference: In fashion, women wear pants, but men do not wear gowns. Jean Paul Gaultier tried it as an experimental artwork, but in real life, except with the transgender culture, it simply does not exist. There is no reversibility or symmetry. Structurally, fashion remains women’s domain.
It is a way to assert sexual difference in a world where it tends to disappear. Everywhere else, in the business world, in politics, in sports, the logic of gender equality is inexorably spreading, but not in fashion. Maybe it’s because of an anthropological necessity.
Blogs now relay endlessly the outfits worn by fashion editors and socialites at fashion shows and parties. Do you think we have entered a spectacular moment in clothing?
No, not in the clothing. The spectacular is more in the fashion show itself. Look at Victoria’s Secret in the U.S. or Chanel shows at the Grand Palais in Paris. These shows are gigantic, sophisticated performances that combine fashion, art, choreography, music, stage art, etc. The fashion show is a communication tool made to be publicized by the media because the spectacular sells. Then you go back on the street where nothing happens and where people don’t want this kind of spectacle because the spectacular piece of clothing does not belong to everyday life. Even the celebrities, once they leave the red carpet, dress like everyone else. In aristocratic times, the spectacular was in the clothing. The nobles would differentiate themselves from the mass with an exuberance of gold, diamonds, pearls, and silk. That’s totally over. People only want to feel comfortable except when they go to a party or a wedding.
Today’s sci-fi epics (ahem, Hunger Games), throwback flicks (The Wolf of Wall Street being the latest, with its portrayal of down-and-dirty nineties bankers), and witty dramas (Blue Jasmine, anyone?) have some pretty impressive wardrobe teams. But when it comes to the most iconic on-screen ensembles, the films of yore take the cake. According to a poll conducted by the U.K.’s British Heart Foundation (it held the study to promote its “Ram Up Red” campaign, which raises awareness about heart disease), Marilyn Monroe’s William Travilla-designed white halter frock (yes, that one) from 1955′s The Seven Year Itch was at the top of the list. In second place was Judy Garland’s blue gingham dress and ruby red slippers from 1939′s The Wizard of Oz, and Olivia Newton-John’s second-skin black look from Grease, Ursula Andress’ white bikini in Dr. No, and the ebony Givenchy gown Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s came in at third, fourth, and fifth place, respectively. As for the win, we’re sure Ms. Monroe—or rather, her character, The Girl—would think it’s “just delicate.”
These days, you’re nobody unless Google decides to honor you on its home page. And this morning, the tech company gave Edith Head its stamp of approval. Today would have been the Hollywood costume designer’s 116th birthday, so Google posted an illustration of the legend posing in front of six of her iconic looks. Spanning fifty-four years, the costumer’s career saw her create outfits for stars like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and Funny Face, Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun, and Tippi Hedren in The Birds, among many more. Her work at Paramount and Universal Studios earned her thirty-five nominations from the Academy and eight Oscars for Best Costume Design. She died in 1981 at the age of 83, having left a glamorous and indelible mark on Hollywood fashion.